ANNAPOLIS, MD—Governor Larry Hogan held a press conference on Friday afternoon to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
After his announcement earlier this week, the governor says Maryland’s “strike teams” have responded to nine nursing homes across the state and fifteen group homes for medically fragile children. The teams will now be sent to assisted living facilities as well.
The governor announced a new $2.5 million state investment in joint partnership with the University of Maryland School of Medicine to provide technology for a large-scale COVID-19 testing initiative, which in the future will enable up to 20,000 tests per day.
The Maryland Department of Transportation, in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is setting up a decontamination site for PPE at BWI Airport. This will give crews the ability to clean and sterilize up to 80,000 N-95 respirator masks per day.
Governor Hogan announced the launch of a new registry for those who have recovered from COVID-19.
“Each of the recovered coronavirus patients in Maryland has a story to tell and a role to play in our efforts to save lives and slow the spread of this virus,” said Governor Hogan.
COVID Connect will serve as a community platform to share experiences and to lend support to others who are coping with the recovery process. To become part of this new registry, recovered patients can visit: http://health.maryland.gov/covidconnect.
The comptroller announced that the state of Maryland is projecting a potential revenue loss of $2.8 billion for FY 2020. In response, the governor announced an immediate budget freeze on all state spending across all agencies.
The governor also announced a state hiring freeze, effective immediately. In addition, the Maryland Department of Budget and Management will make recommendations for budget cuts across all state agencies.
“I want to be clear that it is unlikely that any bills that require increased spending will be signed into law,” said Governor Hogan.
According to the governor, the state will be tapping into and spending much, perhaps all, of the Rainy Day Fund balance.
“Responding to this crisis will likely create a multi-year budget issue which will require further substantial budget reduction actions,” said Governor Hogan.
With regard to those who are encountering difficulty in filing for unemployment, Governor Hogan called the current process “completely unacceptable.” He has directed the Maryland Department of Labor to use every resource at their disposal, assign additional employees from other agencies to Labor, and activate the full weight of state government to assistthe labor department in ensuring that all unemployed Marylanders, no matter how or when they file, will get the help they need and receive the funds they are entitled to as quickly as possible.
Governor Hogan is ratifying the State Board of Elections’ plan for “vote by mail.” The Board’s plan requires some polling places available for voters unable to vote by mail or with special needs. However, the governor urges those who can vote by mail to cast their ballot by mail.
“Our ultimate goal must be to do everything possible to ensure that the voice of every Marylander is heard in a safe and secure manner,” said Governor Hogan.
Governor Hogan also announced that he would declare the Easter Bunny as “essential worker” in the state of Maryland. The Easter Bunny therefore “will be able to proceed with his hopping across the state, delivering Easter baskets to Maryland children,” said the governor.
The full transcript from today’s press conference can be accessed here and the full video is below.